Archive for Thursday, March 23, 2006

Some good firefighting news

March 23, 2006

We've watched with interest as the Baldwin City Council has poked and prodded city staff at the last few meetings regarding old fire hydrants, the routine testing of all hydrants and other items in the wake of the tragic Feb. 13 fire that destroyed Bill and Jane Stotts' home at 818 Indiana.

It was no exception at Monday's meeting. Council President Amy Cleavinger, who has been leading the way on the issue from day one after a fire hydrant failed at Ninth and Jersey the day of the fire, didn't waste any time. During the usually mundane approval of bills, she questioned a purchase.

"Is this purchase for new fire hydrants?" she asked. "Where are we at with this?"

The answers the council received were good. Yes, there have been new fire hydrants purchased. Yes, three old hydrants have been replaced. More will be replaced after a consultant's study of the city's water system is completed to determine the best course of action.

That's good news.

But, the council wanted more. The next question was regarding a routine system check where all hydrants would be periodically tested. Council members were told that a plan was being developed for that.

That's more good news.

But, what the council didn't hear about was the best news of all. The Signal asked Baldwin Fire Chief Allen Craig Tuesday if he'd had any luck attracting new volunteer firefighters. Another of the problems on Feb. 13 was the fire occurred during the work day at around 3:30 p.m. We had done a story the week before about the need for firefighters, especially from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week. The fire department was down to only four people in town that could respond to day-time fires.

It was ironic that only days after that story ran, there was such a fire. It vividly pointed to the need for more volunteers. Subsequent stories, editorials and advertisements about that need proved fruitful. Craig happily told us he had three new volunteers.

That's the best news so far.

It doesn't lessen the need for more volunteers. As Craig quickly pointed out, he'll take all he can get. Baldwin has a long-standing tradition of a very strong volunteer fire department. It was a sign of the times that the department's ranks had shrunk, as more and more volunteer firefighters weren't working in Baldwin during the day.

We applaud these volunteers and especially give a warm welcome to the newcomers. We're glad you're here.

We're still concerned about the dispatching to fires and other emergencies after the problem that occurred on Feb. 13. Nathan Stotts dialed 911 and reported the fire at 818 Indiana. The Douglas County dispatcher mistakenly sent Lawrence fire trucks to that address there. There was no fire there. That's when the call was dispatched as a Baldwin location.

But, the damage was already done. Every minute of response time is precious in emergencies. The Stottses can tell you just how precious. We've been told that steps have been taken with Lawrence's dispatch to correct the problem.

We hope so. That would be the best news of all.

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